by Chuck Eckerson
For the last few years, the FamilyLife ministry in the Pentecostal Church in Togo has done HomeBuilders small groups “their own way.” In many (most?) Pentecostal churches, they did not really follow the way we trained them. They have used our HomeBuilders® materials in ways that we might not even recognize here in the US. We have not insisted that they do it “our way,” but through our ongoing coaching and questions, they have realized that they are missing a real opportunity for changed lives and marriages that comes from a growing number of HomeBuilders groups that facilitate effective and genuine group interaction.
Bafei, the leader of the FamilyLife ministry within the Pentecostal church, sent a report recently saying that they are “changing their system to fit the FamilyLife pattern.” They are retraining their small group leaders, reforming the groups, and their pastors have given the group leaders an increased level of autonomy. In a hierarchical culture, this is a huge step.
In recent weeks, Bafei and the Pentecostal denomination’s FamilyLife team have introduced these reforms in 11 Pentecostal churches already and have plans to introduce the reforms in 64 more Pentecostal churches. Bafei believes there is potential to do this in 150 Pentecostal churches in the capital city of Lomé alone. Then they will begin introducing FamilyLife small groups in Pentecostal churches in the interior of the country.
Kathy and I spent three weeks in Togo starting in late April to help them pave the way for further expansion within the Pentecostal church and to help launch and implement FamilyLife with the Assemblies of God denomination. The Pentecostal and Assemblies of God denominations are two of the biggest denominations in the country. Those three weeks were groundbreaking.
It was groundbreaking in that Edouard Ametou, the National Team Leader for Campus Crusade in Togo, had the vision to allow denominations to form their own FamilyLife leadership team, with the expectation that they would plan, organize, and fuel the implementation and expansion of FamilyLife throughout their denomination.
It was groundbreaking in that we have never before worked with teams of pastor couples specifically selected by the president of their denomination to implement FamilyLife as the foundation for marriage ministry in their churches all across Togo. The Assemblies of God denomination is one of the largest in Togo with over 1,000 churches. HomeBuilders small groups will be the primary tool they will use as a foundation for marriage ministries in their churches.
It was groundbreaking in terms of the sheer numbers of pastors and lay couples exposed to FamilyLife’s principles and resources. We did a marriage seminar for the Assemblies of God pastors and their wives. With 142 in attendance, it was the largest we have ever done. Then, three days later, we conducted a HomeBuilders small group leader training. Two hundred thirty four pastor and lay couples attended. It was 100 people larger than any we had ever conducted anywhere, and probably the largest FamilyLife small-group leader training ever conducted on foreign soil. At the end of the training, every participant left with an understanding of how to form and lead their own group, an experience of being in a HomeBuilders group, a vision for how God could use them to reach other families, and a list of names of couples they knew that they could pray for and invite to a HomeBuilders group. We are trusting that God, who sowed broadly, will reap broadly too!